U.S. Tests First Ground-Launched Cruise Missile Since Withdrawing From INF Treaty
By RFE/RL August 19, 2019
The United States says it has tested its first ground-based cruise missile since withdrawing from a more-than-30-year-old arms treaty with Russia earlier this month.
The Department of Defense on August 18 test-fired a conventional ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, California, the agency said in a statement.
"The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight," the Pentagon said.
It will use the data from the test to improve its intermediate-range missiles, the statement said.
The United Sates officially withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on August 2 after Washington and its allies accused Russia of violating the pact by deploying the 9M729 missile, also known as the SSC-8.
Moscow both denied the allegation and asserted that U.S. missile-defense systems in Eastern Europe violated the treaty -- a claim rejected by Washington.
Russia suspended its participation in the INF Treaty after President Donald Trump on February 1 announced the United States planned to pull out of the agreement, suspending its obligations the following day and starting a six-month withdrawal period.
The INF accord, signed between the United States and the Soviet Union, banned ground-launched missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers.
The medium-range missiles eliminated by the treaty were seen as acutely destabilizing because of their short flight times.
The demise of the treaty has stoked fears of a new arms race between the United States and Russia.
"Developing and fielding U.S. INF Treaty-range missiles is militarily unnecessary," said Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat-reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, a Washington, D.C. think tank.
In an e-mail sent to RFE/RL, Reif said it "would force difficult and contentious conversations with and among allies about where to base them, and would likely prompt Russia and China to take steps that would increase the threat to the United States and its allies."
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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